Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fixing What Ails Newspapers

I've been thinking a lot lately about how to fix what ails the newspaper industry. It's the topic of conversation with everyone I know who still works in the profession. And no one seems to have a magic pill.

A few months ago, at an annual meeting of the Associated Press Managing Editors, I spoke with a Gannett editor who knew me before I jumped off the print bandwagon and fell into this Internet gig. She asked me, given my new vantage point, how I would move forward in the new media age.

I suggested that her company -- also my former employer -- consider taking its news service, which wasn't breaking much news ground, and use its staff in a different way -- to aggregate news from its newspapers across the country. There was, as far as I could tell, no reason for WebMD or any other national health site to exist when the company owned a string of newspapers that could provide more, and better, health-related content. Sadly, she said, a similar idea had been floated before but, for a variety of reasons, it hadn't worked.

The conversation bothered me. And today, a day after reading the full report from Newspaper Next, it still makes me cringe. The report, if you haven't read it, is a call to action for newspaper companies struggling to compete in a new media landscape.

So here's my suggestion for the day, directed at any large newspaper company that's trying to recreate itself in a world where fewer people are reading print products each day. Consider taking all your Web sites dedicated to a particular niche audience, let's say moms for example, and connect the dots for a national audience.

Imagine this. All your local niche moms sites connected under one umbrella site. (Let's steal a brand name from an already national product and call it USAmoms for lack of a better name.) All your local traffic moving through one national portal -- a Babycenter for moms if you will. I wonder, would that play with national advertisers do you think?

I guess someone will have to give it a try.

No comments: